Stasher Sponsors Plastic Research Expedition with 5 Gyres

Hey, #stashersquad! My name is Haley Jain Haggerstone and I'm the Development and Partnerships Director at 5 Gyres. Before joining the 5 Gyres team, I volunteered and worked with the Surfrider Foundation. But even before that, as a snowboarder and surfer I was inspired to join the global movement to protect our planet, specifically the mountains and ocean where I love to play.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably aware of our planet’s plastic pollution problem. You may have even heard about the floating islands of trash in the middle of the ocean. About 12 years ago, I attended my first Surfrider Foundation meeting and learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I’ve always lived on the coast and the ocean is a big part of my life. Little did I know that this meeting would change the course of my life.

I later learned that the plastic in the ocean is not a mass floating on the surface, but more like a plastic smog of small particles in constant motion with the currents. Much like the smog that I’m all too familiar with living in Los Angeles, it’s impossible to clean up once it’s in the environment. Instead, we must stop it at the source by focusing on upstream solutions─individual behavior, corporate design, and policy change.

Seeing the problem up close makes it personal

Last summer, I had the opportunity to join my first plastic research expedition with the 5 Gyres Institute, an organization on a mission to empower action against the global health crisis of plastic pollution through science, education, and adventure. I joined 5 Gyres’ 18th Expedition, traveling from Bali to Komodo Island, through what’s known as the Coral Triangle. We spent eight days studying plastic pollution both at sea and on land.

In addition to collecting plastic samples everyday, we spent a lot of time enjoying the ocean and exploring the region’s natural beauty. The reefs were full of life and we snorkeled amongst a wide variety of marine life including turtles and manta rays. Swimming alongside majestic manta rays is truly breathtaking, but in my experience it was also heartbreaking as we were surrounded by plastic. I did my best to grab every piece that I came across, but there was too much and some of it had been in the ocean for so long that it was incredibly degraded and burst into pieces when you touched it. I left the ocean that day in tears, but this experience also reminded me why I’ve dedicated my life to fighting for a planet free of plastic pollution.

Image via @5gyres on Instagram

Since 2009, 5 Gyres has lead 18 research expeditions and was the first to study plastic pollution in all five subtropical gyres─the oceanic current systems where plastic waste accumulates. This research lead to the first global estimate of plastic pollution on the surface of the world's oceans, which 5 Gyres published in 2014─finding over 5.25 trillion particles, weighing 269,000 tons. In addition to collecting new scientific data, these expeditions provide an unparalleled platform for engagement, bringing diverse stakeholders out to the gyres to participate in this important research and gain first hand experiences to share with their communities.

Joining forces for the oceans

5 Gyres and Stasher are both members of 1% for the Planet, a network of businesses and non-profits inspiring a global movement to protect our planet. Last year, Stasher supported 5 Gyres by donating $1 of every stasher sold between Black Friday and Giving Tuesday, totaling more than $20,000. This donation deepened our partnership and inspired Stasher’s Brand Director, Katie Reinman to sign up for 5 Gyres Galapagos expedition this summer.

Goin' to The Galapagos!

The Galapagos archipelago is one of the planet’s last wild and incredible places. Located 600 miles off Ecuador’s coast, the Galapagos provided the seeds for Darwin’s theory of evolution. This ecological gem will provide the crew with a living classroom of evolution and natural history.

The crew will walk on bare lava, come face to face with blue-footed boobies and displaying frigate birds, wander the highlands for giant tortoises, be amazed by hundreds of unique marine iguanas basking at their feet, get up close and personal with the endemic flightless cormorants, swim with penguins and sharks, interact with curious sea lions, snorkel alongside green sea turtles and be surrounded by yellow-tailed surgeonfish. All while studying the plastic found in and around the waters of the island.

Katie will be joining the first leg of the expedition, which will travel west through the Galapagos Archipelago from July 27th-August 3rd. She’ll be joined by 15 other crew on the S/S Mary Anne, a 65.84 meter 3-masted sailboat. The crew and 5 Gyres staff will study plastics, both at sea and on land.

At sea research will be conducted using a manta trawl, named after manta ray which is resembles, to skim the ocean surface for plastic. On land, the crew will collect the plastic and document the quantity, type, and brand where possible.

All of this data will be added to our growing collection of incredibly compelling information, which we use to educate the public as well as influence governments and corporations.  

We are very grateful for Stasher's support and look forward to joining forces again. Can't wait to have Katie along with us as we help to deepen human knowledge of our impact on this beautiful planet and its wild inhabitants. 

Follow our Galapagos expedition this summer via Instagram at @5gyres and @stasherbag!